As a parent, you play a unique role in supporting and framing what success looks like to your young adult. Navigating the often-unchartered terrain of figuring out what the future holds can be a challenging time for both parents and children alike. Supporting your child in making decisions that impact their future is not a difficult practice, but it is just that, a practice. Follow the link for a few suggestions to aid you in offering support to your child so they are better prepared to make informed decisions about their education and career choices.
Education is a dynamic process; changes often occur in policy and practice with a new administration, fluctuating school leadership, and promising educational trends. The tides change, and new mandates are made, objectives set, benchmarks layout, data to collect, and achievement to measure; but often we miss the vital opportunity to reflect on why new procedures are made and newfangled practices are warranted in the first place. It is in this reflection that purpose-driven decision making can become clear. I recently learned an important strategy centered on reflection from a Japanese teacher in Japan.
I was in Tokyo, a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, at a three-day conference on Asian Education and International Development. The focus was on research relevant to the issues of independence and interdependence among Asian countries through the lens of education. The attendees were from over 34 countries which provided for rich information, and conversations centered on some of the central issues impacting educators across the globe and not just in Asia. It was following the three days of presentations and information sessions, just when I thought my brain could not take digest one more piece of information, that a Japanese educator taught me about hansei(pronounced hahn-say).
Hansei is the practice of “self- reflection” and is a central awareness in Japanese culture, and loosely translates into English vernacular to mean “self-awareness is the first step to improvement.” Rooted in Eastern philosophy and with a religious nuance, the art of hansei is taught in some Japanese schools, so children begin to learn from an early age to reflect on performance, irrespective of outcomes. It is also a part of the corporate business in Japan and not exclusive to education leadership models. My new colleague wanted feedback on their presentation, and like most of the participants in our “hansei group” we gave broad comments based on execution. Yet, we were pushed by our hansei guide to dig deeper and provide pointed feedback that would inform the presentation focused on areas that might need to be bolstered, supported more, or framed differently. I have never participated in such a process at a conference and will admit that it required me to think deeply about content, delivery, and overall impact. The process differed from the type of pointers I have provided colleagues in the past as this process was meant to be critical, with an awareness that we were helping to inform broader actions. Gone were the superfluous adjectives of well done or good job!
Often in western culture, we are not receptive to receiving feedback. Two poignant reasons, time and perception. Receiving feedback usually is not done in an efficient timeframe. Hansei is conducted following the execution of an action. This process does take time, but it must be seen as a worthy use of time to be useful to all participants. Additionally, feedback for many in western culture is synonymous with criticism and taken as a personal assault on performance. Whether one is running a program, guiding policies, or directing leadership activities; the opportunity to be given feedback that quite possibly could have a meaningful impact is lost when the mindset is not open and receptive.
Traveling to attend educational conferences outside the United States provides learning opportunities on many fronts, and as an educator and teacher trainer, I would like to infuse more hansei into my practice. Educational practice is not static, and through the art of reflection, to understand the why behind our policies, the rationale in making decisions, and conducting a mindfulness check on what we can perhaps do differently to enhance and ultimately improve on education is a useful endeavor.
I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Janet Napolitano today.
Dr. Napolitano was at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore speaking to stakeholders about building bridges between universities to address global challenges and connect the world through research and innovation.
Dr. Napolitano has an impressive record of public service having served as the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration from 2009-2013; she served as Governor of Arizona from 2003-2009; Attorney General of AZ from 1998-2003, and as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona from 1993-1997.
Her work as the 20th president of the University of California began in 2013. Today she leads a public university system with 10 campuses, five medical centers, three affiliated national laboratories, and a statewide program on agriculture and natural resources. An impressive feat not lost on those attending her presentation.
During the discussion portion she took questions from the crowd and masterfully answered questions on how the UC system is addressing changes in pedagogical practices, the politics of higher ed., the need of education to change to meet the needs of a society in flux, and cultivating a system of shared knowledge between NTU & University of California.
A wonderful opportunity to connect with California so far from home.
Thank you, Education Week for sharing my thoughts with other passionate teachers and education leaders.
The need to shift our teaching to incorporate the competencies our students need in life is apparent when U.S. students’ skill sets are compared with those of students in other academically advanced countries.
This week has been an adventure; from registering at the National Institute of Education for classes, spending my first week at my school site and meeting with teachers, adventuring into the labyrinth of air-conditioned shopping malls that put Vegas to shame, and getting happily lost on solo excursions out and about on this fabulous island.
On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday I headed to my school site where the staff and administration have been so welcoming. I have a cubicle in the department head office and feel fortunate to be among these informed instructors. I have been introduced to so many teachers and staff members that my head is spinning, but they graciously repeat their names when I stumble and massacre the pronunciation with my phonetic approach. I will spend 6 weeks here at Beatty Secondary School visiting classrooms and talking with teachers that support students with special education needs.
On Wednesday, the Fulbright group headed to the National Institute of Education; Singapore’s teaching college, where we finalized paperwork for enrollment into classes. Although the campus is located quite some distance from the city center, attending class there will be a welcomed addition to my schedule each week. I will be in a course with my assisting professor, Wong Meng Ee, who is my contact for research through the university. I start tomorrow evening.
I have taken the opportunity to explore when I can and have found great running paths near where I am staying in District 10 near Tam Kah Kee MRT, which is close to the Botanical Gardens. I utilize public transportation everywhere I go and have yet to have any issues other than my own inability to make sense of timetables. I am getting better with practice. Each subway stop (MRT stop) seems to connect with a high-end shopping mall. As passengers make their way up escalators, they find themselves ushered into food courts and shopping extravaganzas. It is no wonder Singaporeans are immaculate dressers and seem to have a preoccupation with all things food.
Chinese New Year is looming on the horizon. It begins February 5 and ends the 19. I have traveled to Chinatown a few times as the energy there is electric and red lanterns, decorations, and pig-themed accessories are out in full force. It is the year of the pig, and one is encouraged to look up their Chinese Zodiac sign to determine if 2019 will be a good year with career fit, marriage, fortune, etc. With this holiday being such an important time for over 20% of the world population, and with so many Chinese celebrating in Singapore, I am leaning into the Chinese New Year celebrations. Thus, the dress.
Next week promises to be another week of new adventures. Thanks for reading.
“I think I just want to find meaning and fulfillment in life so one of those channels would be to be able to help students in need and special education schools in Singapore are deserving of more attention.” -FL
I visited my first school placement today, Beatty Secondary School in Singapore. Freddy Loke, my assigned Academy of Singapore Teachers (AST) buddy was with me from the start of my bus journey to assist me in my travels. We took a few pictures to mark my first day of school attendance and capture our good moods.
My abbreviated day began with a short tour of the school which serves approximately 1200 students. Principal Ling Khoon Chow welcomed me, as did Vice Principal Lim Soon Wai and a leadership team of teachers. We took a brief tour of the school and I had the opportunity to walk the halls and pay a visit to one class taking place in a ‘Maker Space’. To clarify, a ‘Maker Space’ is a collaborative workspace inside a school for making, learning, exploring, and sharing. As we entered the room the students stood to face us and Mr. Lim gave verbal instructions how to address me, and in unison, they said, “Good morning Dr. Powell, Principal, and teachers.” Mr. Lim instructed the students to continue working and they went back to their groups. In the back of my head, I wondered with a smile if I could possibly replicate this greeting and quick following of directions in my classroom back in California.
In the ‘Maker Space’ I watched high school students working collaboratively to problem solve identified issues in their school. The desks were in quads and the students moved around freely during class interaction. This set up was quite different then the rows of desks I had seen in classrooms earlier on my walking tour.
The highlight of my day was the privilege of witnessing an assembly to announce the release of the 2018 GCE O Level results. The results of this exam have a major influence on the trajectory of studies a student qualifies to pursue, and as such the assembly was well attended by parents, students, and faculty. I was curious as the US has no such national exam to test the academic competence of 16-year-olds, nor does California have any standardized test taken in high schools that impacts a student’s academic path following graduation. Knowing the importance of this test and the impact it has, I wanted to witness the result release.
First, Principal Ling welcomed the assembly and reviewed the agenda. He stated, “This is an important juncture in your lives journey,” highlighting the importance of the results of this exam and the implications attached to the scores. He called attention to the documents students would receive in their results packet. Next, he reviewed school-wide results in comparison to last year; Beatty Secondary School increased their pass rate for all GCE O levels compared to 2017. The audience cheered as he showed the data on a PowerPoint screen in the front of the room. The finale came when students were called up to receive their score packets. There were a lot of smiles, a few tears, but overall parents and students seemed pleased with the results. On hand were counselors in the event a student had a hard time accepting their scores.
Students were mixing and mingling in the auditorium following the assembly and I had the opportunity to casually ask a few students how they had performed. Fortunately, I was situated in the corner of the assembly where students who scored ‘with distinction’ were asked to congregate for a photo op, so I knew they had done well. The two boys I asked were both humble in their responses saying they did “All right.” I asked them if they were proud of their scores and they both said that they thought so. I have included a few pictures below of the school and the assembly. It might be interesting to note that the top performers on the exams were listed alphabetically by name on the PowerPoint, and no overall scores were published. I was told this was mandated by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to put less emphasis on numerical points earned.
I’m looking forward to spending more time meeting teachers and getting to know students at Beatty.
*The Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Ordinary ‘O’ Level examination is a national examination held annually in Singapore. The exams are taken by students in their fourth year of high school (Express Stream) or fifth year (Normal Academic stream).
18 hours and 32 minutes after leaving Los Angeles airport I arrived safely in Singapore. The flight was long but manageable, especially since the crowded plane was packed, with the exception of the seat next to mine- SCORE!
After navigating customs and baggage claim at Changi airport, I promptly got a new SIM card & local phone number and purchased an EZLink card for public transit use on the MRT, LRT and buses.
My hotel, Fragrance Waterfront, is located near the National University of Singapore and after waking up at 4 am with jet lag, I decided to go on a run and explore.
It was pretty dark out but I was impressed by the behemoth buildings, impeccable landscaping, the sports hall, and amenities. Grabbed a picture of this snack machine as I thought it offered some scrumptious food choices.
Running home I smelled incense in the air and during my cool down I saw small ornate alters burning in the foyers of business and homes. A wonderful way to be reminded of all I am thankful for.